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Gift giving doesn’t have to cause money stress

What comes to mind when you recall holidays gone by? Do you have sweet memories of time spent with friends and family, or unpleasant memories of family and gift-buying stress — along with debt to start the new year? I can’t eliminate the stress caused by 2020 or relatives, but I can provide a few financial tips to help prevent debt remorse in 2021. 

Review the list of people for whom you purchase gifts. If you have not set aside the funds, is buying presents really worth going into debt? Would you want others going into debt to buy for you? Do they really need or want the item you plan to give them? 

My two sons have a tradition, which exemplifies what gift giving sometimes becomes; one of them hands the other a $100 bill, which the recipient in turn hands back to his brother. Nothing is accomplished but the expected exchange. How often do you buy for someone because you think they will buy for you? Gift giving has become an obligation instead of a joy. 

If you find yourself feeling obligated, the people on your list may feel the same. Perhaps their financial situation is even tighter than yours. Be bold, be brave and be real. Have a conversation and explain you’re stepping back from spending on gifts to allow more joy in your holidays; remove some stress from yourself and from them. 

For the gifts you do purchase, set a budget or spending cap. In my immediate family, we draw names for the adults and set a limit for the items we plan to buy. This helps eliminate negative feelings on both sides when one person spends more than the other. 

Instead of focusing on cost, be creative. Something handmade often means more than any store-bought item ever could. Do you have special cookies or jelly everyone loves? Do you have artistic talents — the ability to draw, write poetry or make a craft? As my mother aged, we printed some of the poems she had written and framed them as gifts for the family. Those types of items usually cost much less and have more value. 

My sister, Liz, started a wonderful tradition with her children when they were young. She helped them create handmade gifts and baked items, and before they received any gifts, they gave their gifts to family members. They had so much joy as they saw how excited we were to receive their gifts; it was a special time for them and for us. 

It’s important to teach children the value of time and money. How often have you purchased an expensive item to see it soon discarded? How many times do children play with the box instead of the toy? Just because something is on their gift list does not mean you must buy it. Requiring them to earn and save their money to buy the item they think they can’t live without will help teach them patience, diligence and self-control. These things will help them as they grow into adults while laying the foundation of financial wisdom. After all, isn’t financial wisdom one of the things we desire for ourselves and our families?


Rogers is the vice president of Marston Rogers Group, a life planner and financial consultant. Reach her at (228) 206- 5902 or Kathy@mrg.life.